Raras' defense lawyer tries to shift focus to man accused in killing

Vengeance led to plot, prosecutors contend

January 25, 2000|By Del Quentin Wilber | Del Quentin Wilber,SUN STAFF

The trial of a 63-year-old Baltimore County woman on murder-for-hire charges opened yesterday with prosecutors and defense attorneys shaping up a weeklong battle to prove who is responsible for the brutal 1998 slaying of an Elkridge woman.

Howard County prosecutors accuse defendant Emilia D. Raras of a seething vengeance that they say led her to hire a co-worker to kill her daughter-in-law.

"This is a case about how cold and hard a human heart can be," said Deputy State's Attorney I. Matthew Campbell.

Raras' defense attorney focused on the man accused of stabbing Sara J. Williamson Raras to death in her Meadowfield Court family room Nov. 14, 1998.

Defense attorney Clarke F. Ahlers called 20-year-old Ardale D. Tickles "a sociopath," responsible for the slaying and said his client never intended for anyone to be killed.

Raras was arrested in August and charged with first-degree murder, solicitation to commit first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder. Raras is accused of paying Tickles $3,000 to kill her daughter-in-law.

Tickles is set to go on trial in March.

Campbell began laying out his case yesterday before the 12-member jury in Howard County Circuit Court by telling of Raras' dislike for her daughter-in-law.

The defendant told co-workers that Sara Raras was a "loose woman" and "a whore" who engaged in cyber-sex, according to Campbell. The prosecutor described how Raras acknowledged during a police interrogation that her daughter-in-law made her so mad she trembled.

In addition to being upset about her son Lorenzo's divorce from Sara Raras, Campbell said Emilia Raras was also angry because she felt slighted during and after Sara Raras' pregnancy.

Emilia Raras worked as a nurse at a Baltimore County nursing home where Tickles was employed in the laundry. The two were seen talking together in the employees' lounge, Campbell said. On Nov. 14, 1998, the prosecutor contended, Tickles jumped through a porch window of Sara Raras' home and stabbed her to death.

Ahlers began his opening statements by saying Tickles committed the slaying and used charts to show that "80 percent of the evidence" dealt with Tickles' role in the killing and that what remained was inconclusive regarding his client.

"Ardale Tickles has some sort of serious mental illness," Ahlers said. "He speaks with extreme racism. He talks about killing white people for Allah." During his discussion with the informant, Ahlers said, he showed no mercy for Sara Raras.

Ahlers has subpoenaed Tickles' case file from Baltimore Circuit Court, where he was convicted last year of attempted murder and sentenced to 25 years in prison. In that file are copies of a psychological examination and presentence investigation report that could outline possible mental problems.

Police learned of the crime, Campbell said, because Sara Raras somehow called a friend during the attack. That friend's answering machine recorded muffled sounds and moans during the slaying, Campbell said.

The next day, the friend called police, who discovered Raras' body.

For months, Campbell said, police were stymied in their investigation.

But in late May, a Baltimore County jail house informant called investigators and told them that a cellmate had described a brutal slaying.

On June 1, police put a wire on the inmate, and he taped a conversation with Tickles, who spoke of stabbing a woman near Columbia.

Tickles also told the informant that a co-worker, whom he did not name, paid him to kill the woman. But Judge Dennis M. Sweeney ruled that prosecutors cannot play that part of the tape because Raras' lawyers would not be able to cross-examine Tickles, who is expected to invoke his right against self-incrimination.

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